Another week has gone by, so let’s get to it. Though, I should caution that this iteration of “Love or Hate” doesn’t contain many strong emotions one way or the other. Please forgive me. Maybe I’ll bring some extra spice next week.
An Extra Tight End
Because why not? I think that’s the reasoning. Nebraska’s coaching staff knows the strengths and weaknesses of its roster better than I do so I’m not going to question the decision-making, but on the surface, taking on a transfer tight end at this point in the summer does seem a little peculiar.
The Huskers added former Rutgers tight end Travis Vokolek on Tuesday. He had 16 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns last season, will sit one year to play two in Lincoln, and he’s the son of a man who used to coach with Mario Vedruzco and Erik Chinander at Northern Iowa.
Brandon Vogel made an interesting point in the mailbag on Wednesday, saying that if you look at this addition like a Justin McGriff replacement, it makes a little more sense, as the Huskers took McGriff and Katerian LeGrone in Scott Frost’s first class to have two tight ends. Timelines match up, for the most part. But even then, McGriff was getting moved to outside linebacker before he left because the team needed capable bodies there.
Given the limited production at Rutgers — and to be fair, I don’t know if that’s because Vokolek couldn’t produce more or his quarterback kept him from doing so — I wonder if the “he’s adding depth to the room” argument holds up. The room currently has Jack Stoll for this season and next, Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal for three more years, LeGrone for four and Hickman for as many as five. Plus walk-ons. If Vokolek falls behind those other scholarship guys — and you’d want Chris Hickman to be the biggest riser — was the addition worth it?
Could it have been used elsewhere? Maybe. If there was an inside or outside linebacker out there looking to grad transfer, I’d give him a spot as soon as he asks.
The scholarship count is at 82. So, there’s still a chance for another addition. But, if the trio of Trent Hixson (presumed starting left guard), Kade Warner (maybe starting receiver…?), and Isaac Armstrong (starting punter) are all getting scholarships, you are suddenly full. It will be interesting to see what happens with the last few open spots in the next two months.
For the Brand
On Saturday, Nebraska hosts the first-of-its-kind OL/DL Pipeline camp. It’s a satellite camp, but it’s sponsored by Adidas. Miami, Louisville, Kansas, Arkansas State and Rice are all sending coaches to help while several hundred kids from across the country are coming to participate.
This is a big deal.
One — the obvious one — because it’s a major recruiting tool right in Nebraska’s backyard. Over the next two days, the Huskers will be home to several Tom Osborne rosters worth of high school talent. And those kids get to see Memorial Stadium and the Husker facilities. And those kids get to see a ridiculous number of fans on hand for a June camp.
But the bigger takeaway, as I see it, is in what the mere existence of this camp says about the Husker brand.
Coaches talk all the time about the power the Nebraska “N” has when they go on recruiting trips and walk into high schools. It still resonates with people. Even after two 4-8 campaigns and two decades of underperforming, Nebraska is still viewed fondly. That adidas is involved in this event reveals where Nebraska stands on the brand’s hierarchy of partners.
That schools like Louisville and Miami are coming to be a part of it highlights that the Huskers still feel like at least somewhat of an authority on high-level line play to other programs. (Or, if not the school itself, this particular coaching staff, and in this case the distinction isn’t really an important one.)
This camp very well could have been held at another adidas school, with Nebraska helping, not hosting. But Nebraska is hosting. And everyone is coming to Lincoln. That says a lot.
Beer and Football
On Friday, the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota voted unanimously to approve the sale of beer and wine at home hockey and basketball games. The Gophers already offer stadium-wide sales at home football games. They’re one of seven Big Ten programs to do so.
Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers also sell alcohol at home football games. Seven schools don’t, including the Huskers.
When Indiana announced it was introducing alcohol sales at home games, it cited a desire to improve the fan experience. (Most schools have, for that matter.) Take this excerpt from a 247 piece by Jordan James on the move:
"Our main goals with this initiative are to enhance the gameday experience for our fans and reduce alcohol-related incidents in and around the stadium," Indiana Vice President and Director of Athletics Fred Glass said in a statement. "While there will be some comparatively modest revenue generated by these sales, that is not the primary purpose of this program. Ten percent of our net beer and wine public sales revenues will be given to campus for alcohol safety programming."
The choice to begin beer and wine sales was made after Indiana hired consulting firm Wasserman to study "the desirability of introducing beer and wine sales at its home football games." As part of the examination, the study looked at over 50 schools that already have alcohol sales available to all patrons 21 or older at games.
"The study found that its introduction resulted in improved game-day experience and attendance (with overall attendance at sporting events on the decline nationally, the introduction of alcohol sales has reversed that trend at numerous schools); and a reduction in alcohol-related incidents and safety issues in the stadium (as an example, Ohio State University reported a 65 percent drop in alcohol-related incidents the first year it served alcohol to the general public, while West Virginia reported a 35 percent decline)," Indiana said in its statement.
More schools need to adopt this. Beer and football go together. That’s why half of the Super Bowl commercials are beer ads. That’s why every tailgate ever features drunk Uncle Joe telling people about how he could have been a D1 football player but chose not to. That’s why half the Big Ten has introduced beer sales while more and more programs around the country do the same.
If people can get the full gameday experience and atmosphere AND drink proudly inside the stadium in clear plastic cups rather than sneaking sips from pocket shots or water bottles not filled with water, they will.
Make this happen, other Big Ten schools.
The non-Big Ten games for Fred Hoiberg’s first season at the helm of Nebrasketball, with their final KenPom ranking from last season:
- UC Riverside, No. 322
- Southern Utah, No. 273
- South Dakota State, No. 92
- Southern, No. 335
- Cayman Islands Classic (any combination of Washington State, South Florida, Old Dominion, New Mexico State, Colorado State, Loyala and George Mason; highest ranking team was New Mexico State at No. 53)
- Georgia Tech, No. 115
- Creighton, No. 55
- North Dakota, No. 271
- TAMU-Corpus Christi, No. 287
That’s… uh… an okay first-year slate of games.
Now, Nebraska didn’t know it’s roster until, like, a few weeks ago and the coaching staff is still having to play first-day-of-class ice-breaker games to learn everyone’s names (not really, though that would be funny), so everyone involved can be forgiven for not going the Tim Miles route of scheduling brutal nonconference slates.
I imagine, though, that this will be the way it is moving forward. In five years under Hoiberg at Iowa State, the Cyclones noncon strength of schedule ranked 260th, 335th, 271st, 258th and 117th. I’m curious if part of that had to do with playing in a brutal Big 12. We’ll certainly see.
One NBA Finals Take
Nick Nurse, in his first season as an NBA head coach, won an NBA title Thursday night. He’s the first first-year coach to do that since… Tyronn Lue with the Cleveland Cavs in 2016. There’s my Nebraska tie. That gives me the right to offer one thought on the NBA’s championship fight coming to a close.
The only one that matters.
GIVE DeMAR DeROZAN A RING, YOU COWARDS.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.